Luke Del Rio’s name was buzzing before the start of last season.
During spring practice and fall camp of 2015, the transfer quarterback from Oregon State was standing out among Florida’s signal callers, and had he been eligible, he might have been the starter.
But he wasn’t eligible, and he couldn’t be the starter.
So when the season began, Del Rio got out of the way of the other quarterbacks and faded into the background — a choice he made for the betterment of the team.
"It was kind of an awkward situation in the sense that all I could do was focus on helping the defense get better on scout team," the redshirt sophomore said. "You don’t want a transfer quarterback who’s on the scout team trying to be the outspoken leader when you can’t play that year."
But now the focus is squarely on Del Rio, the frontrunner for the starting quarterback job in 2016 and the only quarterback currently at Florida’s disposal who has been on campus prior to January.
But he isn’t taking that fact for granted.
"I think it’s an open competition," Del Rio said. "I’ve been here, but I don’t think that makes me above or No. 1 right now. I have to earn it."
The redshirt sophomore is familiar with the offense, though, and not just from his time at Florida.
Before Oregon State, he spent his freshman season at Alabama in 2013, when he walked on to play in current UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s system.
"I’ve been in (this offense) for a few years," Del Rio said. "I haven’t played here but I do have experience running some of the plays.
"As far as making protection changes with the offensive line and understanding adjustments of the routes, it’s more of a knowledge of the offense than anything."
His relationship also goes back with head coach Jim McElwain, too.
McElwain brought an eighth grade Del Rio into a football camp while serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, and he did so again as Colorado State’s head coach when Del Rio was a 10th-grader living in Colorado.
"They put you to work," Del Rio said. "I love the way that (McElwain) coached quarterbacks. He knows how to communicate with them. He knows how to coach them ... I really liked that sort of connection that we made and we continued."
McElwain liked it, too, and he was the first to offer Del Rio a scholarship to come play for the Rams.
"You could tell at that point he was going to be a really good quarterback," McElwain said. "There’s something special about him."
When the quarterback left Oregon State, the choice to come to Gainesville and join forces with both McElwain and Nussmeier seemed like a natural fit.
"Everything must be meant to be," Del Rio said. "I’m really happy that they’re on the team that I’m on."